Here is your Morning Brief for June 29. 2015.

The White House
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American Culture and the Republican Party

Is American culture changing too fast for the Republican Party to catch up? The Washington Post over the weekend makes the argument that the GOP is facing a fast changing landscape that they may not be able to catch.

The exchange illustrates the vexing challenge now facing Republican presidential candidates and the GOP itself: how to get in step with modern America.

Across the cultural landscape, the national consensus is evolving rapidly, epitomized by this year’s convulsions of celebrity, social issues and politics — including the acceptance of Caitlyn Jenner’s gender identity, Pope Francis’s climate-change decree and the widespread shunning of the Confederate flag.

Then came Friday’s landmark Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage. As rainbow colors bathed the White House and other landmarks in celebration, the entire field of Republican presidential candidates condemned the ruling.

This uneven terrain is now a key battlefield in the 2016 campaign, unnerving red America and fueling intense debate within the Republican Party about how to navigate such changes — or whether to adapt to the mainstream at all.

“Most Republicans look at what’s happening and think we’re watching a new stage of left-wing nuttiness,” said former House speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.). “It’s just surreal.”

The GOP’s activist base wants its leaders to fight loudly for traditional, Christian values and sew together a moral fabric they see as frayed, even shredded. This is especially true here in Iowa, which hosts the first caucuses and where candidates will not easily avoid pressure from the far right. Yet political survival demands evolution with popular opinion.

It is an interesting debate and one that could play out over the 2016 election. Do Republicans need to change and adapt to the changing social landscape? Or should they stick to their guns?

Personally, I'd like to hear Republican leaders lead on the economy, immigration, and other political issues. For years now Republicans haven't been winning on the gay marriage issue. They do when on fiscal and security issues. Focus on those and on protecting religious liberty.

Cruz Prepares for Battle

I think we can all agree that Ted Cruz is at his best when he is going after President Obama and weak Republicans. Add in a few Supreme Court decisions from this past week and Cruz might have found some badly needed momentum. According to the Texas Tribune, Cruz has traveled to Iowa to call out the Supreme Court and Republicans.

But the decisions also gave Cruz, the former solicitor general of Texas, fresh ammo for two of his favorite targets: judicial activism and weak-kneed Republicans. The renewed offensive came full circle on Saturday, when he delivered a blistering attack on the Supreme Court, accusing it of being a part of a bipartisan "Washington cartel" hellbent on accumulating power.

"This week's assault was but the latest in a long line of judicial assaults on our Constitution and the commonsense values, the Judeo-Christian values, that have made America great," said Cruz, who later declared that the court's "hubris and thirst for power have reached unprecedented levels."

In content and style, the hourlong speech at Drake University in Des Moines, titled "Believe Again," was Cruz's most notable as a presidential candidate, and his campaign had billed it as "landmark." But it also doubled as a platform to consummate his renewed commitment to Iowa with an eye on its evangelical vote.

Cruz did not waste time taking aim at either the court or fellow Republicans as he stumped a day earlier across northwestern Iowa, a conservative stronghold where locals solemnly nodded along as the senator declared that the "last 24 hours at the Supreme Court were among the darkest in the history of our nation."

"More than a few Republicans issued slightly condemning statements, but were quietly thrilled, relieved, celebrating and popping champagne because they're afraid to defend marriage," Cruz said during a stop in Pierson. "They don't want to have to talk about it anymore."

"Several 2016 candidates today put out statements saying, 'The matter is decided. It's the law of the land. It's time to move on,'" Cruz continued. "We are in a very strange place when Republican presidential candidates are echoing Barack Obama's talking points."

The broadside, repeated several times Friday by Cruz in reference to the two recent rulings, implied a contrast with more moderate Republicans such as former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who reacted to the decisions with a less heavy dose of defiance.

U.S. Rep. Steve King, a firebrand conservative who represents northwest Iowa, agreed with Cruz that now is not the time for the GOP to wind down its battles against the Affordable Care Act and gay marriage.

"We can't just sack up our bats and go home because the Supreme Court overreached," King told reporters while waiting for Cruz in Pierson. "We're going to have to crack them in the knuckles instead."

Watch for Cruz to continue hitting the Supreme Court and Republicans on the campaign trail. It's a tactic that should fire up his base.

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